Tuesday, November 5, 2013

What do you with all your crazy ideas?

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am pleased to once again be joined by Sandra Tayler who is here to talk to us about her latest children’s book: The Strength of Wild Horses.  Thank you for coming back to talk to us again Sandra!

I’m glad to be here. It is always fun to talk with you.

Last time we spoke we touched upon your book “Hold on to Your Horses” and you briefly mentioned “The Strength of Wild Horses” back then.  Is it safe to assume this story is a continuation of your last book?  

I’ve deliberately written this second book so that it can stand alone. These are two adventures featuring the same young girl Amy, so they can be read as a continuation, but they can also be enjoyed separately. Hold on to Your Horses features Amy, her wild ideas, and her mother. Strength of Wild Horses features Amy, her wild ideas, and her sister Kari.

The art is fantastic again! Did you get the same artist as last time?  How important was it to you to get consistent art between the two books?  

Angela Call did the art for both books. It was very important to me that the second book have the same artist. First I just wanted the chance to work with Angela again. Her work is gorgeous and I feel very lucky to work with her. Second, I wanted a consistent look for both books since they feature many of the same characters. Having the same artist means that the characters are easy to recognize and the pages have the same energy. Most of all I just wanted to see Amy again, brought to life in Angela’s drawings.

The previous book was about getting control of yourself by gaining control over your impulses, what’s this book about?  What made you decide to write this one?  

I started seeing the need for a second book almost as soon as the first book was done. My daughter was finally able to visualize her impulsive creativity as something she could control and steer, but then she looked at me one day and told me that sometimes she got tired of steering. "What are wild idea horses good for?" she cried. I had a dozen answers for her, but they were grown up answers. A six year old is not going to be comforted by the fact that some day, when she is all grown up, her headstrong creativity will make her a fantastic project leader in the workplace. I had to find an answer that showed her how wild ideas can make a child's life better. Strength of Wild Horses is my answer.

As a father of a girl and a boy I’m always looking for things that work well for both.  Do you feel your stories reach boys and girls equally well?  

I think the dichotomy between “boy books” and “girl books” is a false one. Different children are going to love different stories, and they should be encouraged to find whichever stories speak to them. I think that any child who gets in trouble for big impulsive ideas can sympathize with Amy.

I’ve been meaning to ask, your husband is an established artist in his own right, what made you decide not to have him do the art?  Was his schedule to busy or was his art style not appropriate for a children’s book?  

It was a combination of both. At the time we did the first book, Howard was struggling to keep up with both the drawing and coloring for his comic. On top of that he was trying to create bonus stories and additional art for the print books. We knew if we waited on him to have time, Hold on to Your Horses would never get done. We also felt that his style of art wasn’t quite right for the book. So we put out a call for artists and were very fortunate that Angela Call saw it.

How does one get into writing children’s books?  At first glance they would appear to be much easier to write than traditional novels, but is that really the case?  

I chose to write picture books because that was the right format for the story I needed to tell and for the audience I needed to tell it to. I quickly discovered that the form is quite rigid. I only had 32 pages and I couldn’t put too many words on each page. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about which picture books I loved to read to my kids and which ones I hid so that I wouldn’t have to read them again. I also took a look at which books my kids wanted me to read over and over again.  I knew I had to write a story that would interest kids. Jane Yolen says that writing picture books is more like writing poetry than like writing a novel. I believe her. You have to pay attention to words and rhythms to get the book right.

The previous book was published by you and is available for free digitally.  Do you plan to post the PDF of the second one online for free as well?  What made you decide to come to Kickstarter this time around?

We don’t currently plan to post the second PDF for free. When we created Hold on to Your Horses (seven years ago) the marketplace for self-published books was very different than it is right now. I’m going to have to find different answers for Strength of Wild Horses than I did for Hold Horses. Choosing Kickstarter is one of those differences. Kickstarter is special. It allows all the people who love a project to participate in the creation of it. Over the years Hold on to Your Horses has gathered people who love it and would like to see a new project that is similar. Taking this new book to Kickstarter gives all those people a chance to participate and to spread the word. This is the power of Kickstarter, it lets all of us boost projects that we love.

You describe in your risks and challenges your plans for the money, could you share those plans with those who are don’t always read that far down the page?

$5000 is the cost for a print run of 2000 books. That will allow me to provide books to all of the Kickstarter backers and to start offering copies of the book in bookstores, online, and at conventions. The remaining $3000 will go to Kickstarter fees, paying for shipping supplies, paying for fulfillment help, and to cover the costs of postage. I paid Angela $3000 in advance for her artwork. That money was out of my pocket. I’ll only earn that back and get paid myself when I manage to sell enough copies of the book.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I’ve started by contacting friends who I know have fairly large internet audiences. Many of them will be hosting interviews or guest posts from me over the next few weeks. I’ll also be communicating with people via facebook and G+ communities that I established ten months ago and have been slowly building. Naturally I’ll also be spreading the word via my blog and twitter. I plan to do additional art reveals and possibly the full text of the book as backer updates. I may even post an outtakes video compiled from all my attempts to shoot a useful video for the project. Beyond that, I’ll have to see what responses I get and then tune what else I do based on what the backers are interested in. A Kickstarter project is a conversation between the creator and the backers. I can’t script the whole conversation in advance and I wouldn’t want to.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

Thus far I’ve had little media attention, but then the project hasn’t launched yet. Hold on to Your Horses got local news coverage both television and radio when it released. I may see if I can line that up again. To launch I’ll use my established social media places and my mailing list. I’m also reaching out to friends who have internet audiences. I’ll definitely sign up for Kicktraq. I expect to find new ways to get the word out as the project progresses. I figure I’ll do some sort of promotional outreach every single day that that the project is open. Most of that outreach will be invisible unless it results in an interview or feature.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

You must really understand the project you’re attempting to do. See how others have done it. See how they succeed or fail. Realize that there is an emotional rollercoaster ride attached to running a Kickstarter. It is exhilarating and terrifying. Most importantly it is better to fail to fund than to fail to deliver. Do the math in advance to make sure you can deliver on your promises. Expect running a Kickstarter to take over your life from the moment you ramp up to go live until you mail off the last rewards to backers.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

No additional thoughts, only thanks. Thank you for inviting me for this interview and many thanks to everyone who fell in love with Hold on to Your Horses and then told me about it. It is because of you that the Strength of Wild Horses project exists.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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